Ahh, the Toronto Raptors.

Off to a disappointing 6-10 start that, by any number of routes, could be a few games better, the Raptors head out on the road amid calls to bench the team’s highest paid player or trade the team’s best offensive player through a month of the season.

Quickly, a couple of responses: The first isn’t happening without a signed and notarized commitment that Gay will waive his option for next season, because benching him would make it a certainty that he picked it up, having lowered his value with such a dramatic (and public) move. And to sign said imaginary document, Gay would probably need a commitment from the team of a starting spot and a hefty shot load…so, yeah, doubt it.

As for the second, I get the argument, but unless the goal is to quickly build the team with free agents around a high pick, I don’t see the point. He’s the team’s best offensive – and probably most popular – player, and his contract is only really a burden when paired with Gay’s albatross. You can survive one scoring wing making a bit too much, especially if the rebuild isn’t going to be a one-year thing. Unless the return is appreciable (unclear) and the sights are indeed set on all-out tanking (which they would be, then), it doesn’t move the needle much for the franchise, as happy as it may make the player.

Oh yeah, some in the fanbase is also calling for lame duck coach Dwane Casey’s head. Which, you know, is probably fair. The offense has been obvious, boring, ineffective and getting worse, while the defense is only occasionally strong. Clock management is an obvious weakness, the rotations provide more questions than answers and he just pulled perhaps the team’s best player out of the starting lineup for Tyler Hansbrough. And then there’s the curious development plan for Jonas Valanciunas. However, a general manager only gets so many coaches, which is why Casey got a stay of execution in the first place. If this trip goes poorly, a move on the bench would hardly be surprising, but further preaching of patience wouldn’t be, either.

Anyway, the Raptors visit Golden State tonight (10:30 on Sportsnet 360) and then play in Phoenix on Friday and against the Los Angeles Lakers – maybe even with Kobe Bryant in uniform – on Sunday night.

And…yeah, this trip is starting with a loss at The Oracle.

Before we break it down, Ethan Sherwood Strauss of ESPN and Warriors World was kind enough to answer a few questions on the Warriors.

Golden State’s “elevator doors” play became a fairly popular study in 2012-13. What are some other ways the Warriors work to get Steph Curry the ball with space to operate?

Strauss: They love to improvise staggered screens for Curry when moving the ball in semi transition. Usually it’s Bogut and Lee, creating a wall for Curry to hit an off the dribble three. Curry also gets plenty of threes off high screens from Bogut in the halfcourt.

The defense has obviously taken a hit with Iguodala sidelined, but this was still a league-average defense last season without him and ranks seventh on the season. Can this team be the league’s third best defense behind Indiana and San Antonio?

Strauss: Yep, but I’m not sure how good the defense is without Iguodala. With Iguodala out, they probably need more playing time from Draymond Green to be better than top 10. This unit really struggles without possibly the best perimeter defender out West.

The Warriors have only taken fewer than 20 3-point attempts four times this year and shot 52 percent on twos in those games. Is there any hope of keeping this team off the 3-point line successfully, or are opponents left to simply hope they go cold?

Strauss: Oh there’s hope, especially with Iguodala out. He’s never been known for his shooting, but the Warriors lost a competent three-point threat when he got hurt. If any of their distance shooters (Curry, Thompson, Barnes, Green) get into foul trouble, the Warriors are at risk of not spreading the floor enough to generate open looks.

Harrison Barnes is a bit of a sore spot for Raptors fans since the Warriors won a coin-flip for the seventh pick in 2012, leaving the Raptors with Terrence Ross at number eight. How does that coin flip coming up differently change this team’s upside for 2013-14?

Strauss: It changes the upside, but I’m not sure how much it changes the reality of 2013-2014. I’m sure Ross would get plenty of open threes on this Golden State team. Barnes is such a fascinating and frustrating player. I could write about him for days. He has superior physical gifts, but is often at a loss for how to leverage them. He boasts awesome defensive tools, though. Even if he doesn’t cash in on his offensive potential, he’ll bring the D.

Position Breakdown

Point Guard
Kyle Lowry and PG2 To Be Decided On A Last Minute Whim vs. Steph Curry and Nemanja Nedovic
Edge: Warriors by the length of Steph Curry’s range
This one’s not exactly close, even if Lowry plays as well as he has the past few games. Curry is the best shooter in the league, maybe ever, and I don’t at all trust the Raptors defense to be disciplined enough to stay tight on him off the ball.

DeMar DeRozan, Rudy Gay, Terrence Ross and Landry Fields vs. Klay Thompson, Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green
: Warriors
Note: Andre Iguodala is not presently expected to play due to a strained left hamstring.
I can see why some may argue in favor of the Raptors duo here, especially with Barnes struggling to start the year and DeRozan flourishing. Still, the efficiency of the Warriors duo – maybe in small part due to lower usage demands and the presence of better players alongside them – gives them the edge. Barnes is also the best defender in the group, and Thompson has the edge on DeRozan in that regard, too.

DeMar DeRozan 24 38.3 21.6 4 2.8 1.1 0.4 17.5 0.527 26.5 0.126 0.432 1.4 0.383 4.8
Klay Thompson 23 37.6 21.2 3.4 2.1 1 0.5 18 0.617 22.6 0.164 0.486 3.4 0.473 2.4
Rudy Gay 27 35.8 19.7 7.4 2.3 1.5 1.4 15.7 0.46 30.9 0.041 0.383 1.3 0.377 3.7
Harrison Barnes 21 32.8 13.1 3.3 1.9 0.9 0.1 12.6 0.563 17.8 0.098 0.493 0.9 0.481 1.8
Terrence Ross 22 19.6 6.6 2.5 0.7 0.4 0.2 11.2 0.54 15.3 0.104 0.424 1.1 0.347 0.7
Draymond Green 23 18.6 5.2 4.1 1.2 1.1 0.8 13.4 0.57 13.4 0.124 0.465 0.8 0.389 0.7

Tyler Hansbrough, Jonas Valanciunas, Amir Johnson, Steve Novak and maybe some Quincon Gracy vs. David Lee, Andre Bogut, Marreese Speights and Jermaine O’Neal Yeah Remember Him The Raptors Traded Roy Hibbert For Him
: Warriors
Bogut will be a nice test for Valanciunas and Hansbrough’s activity could get Lee into some foul trouble, but the Raptors are just at a major talent deficit here. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it doesn’t make it any less painful.

The Lines
Vegas says: Warriors -7.5 with 65 percent of action going that way; 75 percent are also taking the over on 201
Hollinger rankings say: Warriors -7
‘Averages’ say: Warriors -2
John Mayer says: Say what you need to say

Blake says: There’s little to no chance, I feel pretty confident calling this a double-digit loss. With the way this team has struggled of late and struggled against good teams in general, it’s hard to envision them playing a strong 48 minutes. That may sound cliché, but it’s where the team is right now.

Fun fact: Dell Curry ended his career with the Raptors from 1999-00 to 2001-02. Steph’s father ranks 15th in Raptors history with 194 games played (it’s hilarious that that’s a top games total) and 12th in 3-point field goals made with 202. He’s also ninth in 3-point percentage at 39 percent, a leaderboard that contains some truly hilarious names.

Enjoy the game, folks. Please drink your grain alcohol responsibly.

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  • robertparrish00

    “They love to improvise staggered screens for Curry when moving the ball in semi transition.”

    Looks like Casey will be out-coached again.

    • Louvens Remy

      He doesn’t even need to be outcoached. That statement above proves already that the game is lost.

  • Marz

    Thompson’s and Barnes’ 3PT% is incredible. I really hope TRoss brings his defense tonight!

  • Scummer

    You lost me at ” and he just pulled perhaps the team’s best player out of the starting lineup for Tyler Hansbrough”.
    Last I checked, Demar is the best player on this team. I’m not sure I would even put Amir in the top 4.

    • Only if you equate how good a player is with how many points he scores, and not by how much of a positive impact he has when he’s on the court.

      • Louvens Remy

        So Varejao is the best player on the Cavs or Tony Allen on the Grizz because of positive impact? I think not. Amir is a nice complimentary piece and is best served as an 8th or 9th man on a good team. He adds some intangibles but he isn’t asked to do much. He has a limited skill set and plays within them. Although flawed, Ruday and Demar both have a ton more responsibility on the court than Amir does. Ruday and DeMar are the Raps best players unfortunately. Stats be damned.

        • Varajao doesn’t have the most positive impact on the team, and neither does Tony Allen, who is a minus on the offensive end. Amir is a positive on both ends of the court. And I’m not suggesting that he’s an All Star or should be built around. He’s just been the best player on a bad team. DeRozan is one dimensional and Rudy is, well, not helping much, is he?

          • Louvens Remy

            I’m not even gonna fake argue this point. U are right, I am wrong and the CRaptors are a travelling comedy group.

            • Just cut and paste that second sentence. It will save time later….

      • Louvens Remy

        Also, I am not attacking your comment. just replying in general, that I don’t agree that Amir is our best player. Carry on and cyber slap me on your retort…lookin fwd to it!

        • Consider yourself slapped!

          • Louvens Remy

            Next time just use the backhand.

    • mike, prague

      Top four … maybe, but yeah I get you. Amir has been out of it the past little while, but I’m sure it’ll be better soon.

    • BlakeMurphy

      There are lots of people who consider Amir to be one of the best player’s on the team. The game gets played at both ends of the floor, and more happens on offense than just the points.

      DeRozan has been very good (as outlined in the article), but this is dumb. Amir is really good.

    • Ian Reynolds

      Amir Johnson has had some of the best plus minus numbers in the league over the last few years. The entire league, on a garbage handful of Raps teams. He was something like plus-258 last year on that awful team. He’s hands down the best player on this team.

    • Mexiballer

      Amir has easily been the most consistent player over the last several years. A couple of rough weeks do not change that. I guess they needed a benching and he was the most obvious choice if they arent going to bench Rudy.

  • A G

    Who on earth are you kidding??? Benching him will make it a certainty that he will pick up his option? He is already going to pick it up and there is nothing that can be done there, that’s a certainty.

    I read that referenced sportsnet article and am sad to see that he asked Casey about benching Gay and Casey hasn’t even THOUGHT about it? I hope he was just saying that. Bench him.

    • mike, prague

      Bench him and it’ll send him a message. Unfortunately benching him also tells the whole league that A) He sucks (that’s not news) B) There is blood in the water making his trade-“value” dip much much lower than it possibly is. Making it harder for MU to find a reasonable trade and eventually Gay picking up his option.

    • BlakeMurphy

      There is an argument to be made that if he played well, the lure of a 4-year contract would make it reasonable to opt out for the long-term money. Obviously that’s out the window at the moment.

      • Louvens Remy

        I think it’s a smart move on the player to NOT pick up his option even if he plays poorly. The reality is that there is not too many players with the skill set of Rudaay. Teams are still enticed by that talent. Also the last couple years could just be “off” years for the guy. On the right team and a stable 4 year contract he could do damage. In my opinion, I don’t think there is any way Rudaaay picks up his option. #LETHIMWALK

      • sleepz

        There are also those of the opinion that if you were to move Demar and Lowry for younger pieces in a rebuild, Gay would want out and opt out.

  • Pong

    Talent wise, our front court is lacking in comparison to GS, however Lee is probably one of the worst defensive PF in the league. Especially after losing his starting gig, i think Amir is going to redeem himself in this one playing against Lee. Bogut’s a great defender, but I think our bigs will draw some early fouls on him by using their quickness and mobility. I think we’ll see a lot of JV’s pump fake and drive tonight, and hopefully that’ll rack up some early fouls against bogut.

  • Ian Reynolds

    Klay and Curry are going to score 100 points between them tonight with guys helping incorrectly or being slow to rotate.

  • Mexiballer

    I would guess that Masai is itching to trade Rudy. If so, as much as I would like to see him benched, it doesnt make sense to bench him if Masai is looking to get the most value for him by the Feb. 20th deadline. As painful as it is to watch, its probably better in the long run to get as much as we can for him. I dont want to see Demar traded. Him and Amir are the heart of this team, Demar is completely dedicated and is becoming the leader of this team. With good young talent we can build around them.

    • However much I like Amir, and his and DeRozan’s their work ethic, a team built around those two is going to suck. Neither of them are good enough. DeRozan is playing well, and is definitely a bright spot on the roster, but he’s a not very efficient scorer who doesn’t do anything else well. For once, they should trade a player when their value is at it’s highest.

      DeRozan is a decent player, but we shouldn’t overvalue him because he’s one of the few bright spots on a bleak season. That’s a bad reason not to trade a player.

      • Louvens Remy

        Holy Shit! I totally agree with Tim Dubs on this one. I’m gonna have a drink….

      • Mexiballer

        When I say “build around” I didnt mean that they should be center pieces. They would be two very good complementary pieces to the start of a rebuild. What I did mean was that they already have the beginnings of a good core for a strong work ethic, a committed attitude, a positive locker room with a desire to play hard and win. They have become young”veterans” with experience who could lead a group of younger players through the process of becoming a legitimate playoff team. I like both of them as the start of creating a better culture. Masai might see it much differently and decide to tear it all down and start completely over. Well see soon enough what he has in mind..

        • My problem with DeRozan being a foundation piece is he doesn’t have a high basketball IQ and he’s not a good defensive player. Those are two things I would want to make sure my core players have. DeRozan is a nice player, but he’s easily replaceable and the Raptors should trade him while his value is as high as it is.

          • Mexiballer

            I understand and mostly agree with both your points. Demar can definitely improve his defence and his decision making. He chould rebound a lot better too. Still for me, the positive things that Demar brings this this team out weigh the things that he still needs to improve on. And he has improved every year he has been in the league and there is no reason to believe he wont continue to improve. The thing for me is you draft a guy, he works hard, he improves him game every year, he wants to be a part of this team, he is very coachable, hes a great locker room guy and potential leader. he is still young an will get even better, he has had the time, the money and the coaching invested in him by the organization, he is just now turning the corner to become a very solid player and scorer and has the opportunity to get much better, some are even talking potential all star. So why after five years of bringing Demar along and investing so much in him would you want to get rid of him now. Yes…I know because his trade value is high. His trade value is high because is becoming a very good basketball player. Not perfect or great, but a very good player.

            • DeRozan isn’t a bad player, but fans are overvaluing him right now because he’s one of the few bright spots. The Raptors aren’t in a position to starting holding onto decent players simply because they’re decent.

              DeRozan is never going to be the difference between a good team and a bad team, and he doesn’t have the basketball IQ or defensive abilities to warrant being a foundation guy.

              The Raptors are in a position where they need to sell high on their assets, and DeRozan’s value is not likely to get higher.

              • Mexiballer

                It will be interesting to see if Masai agrees with you.

      • sleepz


        If you can move him, get assets and get out from under another BC contract, it should be done.

  • Louvens Remy

    @Tim_W:disqus You’re 6-14 prediction is still alive. LOWRY TO THE BULLS!!! ROSS TO SAN ANTONIO!!! RUDAYY TO CHINA FOR JI YIANLIAN!!!! DECEMBER 15TH!!!!!!

    • After the game tonight, my prediction is looking VERY alive. I’m going to guess they’ll win 1 out of the next three, though (Lakers, Suns, Spurs) and start the season 7-13. Then people can still tell me I was wrong.

      • Louvens Remy

        That’s where u are wrong. Your prediction is very much alive. The Toronto All Star Travelling Comedy Troupe will not disappoint. We’re due for some good laughs and horrible losses. I owe u several beers..

  • Mexiballer

    I dont do analytics. Have the Raptors slowed down anyone’s 3 point shooting this year?

    • BlakeMurphy

      Basically, the analytics say teams show no discernible ability to keep an opponents 3FG% low – that’s more dependent on the opponent/shooters.

      However, teams CAN control how many three attempts they allow. The Raptors allow roughly 5% fewer 3FGA than the league average so far, which isn’t much but works out to a little over an attempt a game.

      • Mexiballer

        Your’e saying the analytics dont show whether one team is better defending the 3 point shot than another? Wouldn’t it show up in the 3FG% the Raptors defense is allowing against each individual team as opposed to what those individual teams 3FG% actually is against the rest of the league?

        • BlakeMurphy

          What I said is that teams don’t display an ability to keep 3FG% low. Within a game, sure, you can close out better, but even the best teams don’t show an ability to do it repeatedly. LIMITING three attempts is a more reliable measure of how teams do guarding the three.

  • Hassan Mehmood Khan

    we should hire jeff van gundy or his brother as coach , we need a strong coach to resurrect this team, also get rudy out of here please we need to develop jonas

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